Cloud and end-user experience in the new normal

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the world into uncertainty, and businesses are fighting to stay productive and competitive. Many employees have been working from home and may continue to work remotely, at least part-time – meaning many new demands on the network. How can cloud help you ensure your remote end users enjoy as seamless an experience as possible?

Cloud computing is now a business essential and a fundamental for companies that want to thrive. According to Gartner, the worldwide public cloud services market will grow 17% in 2020 to a total of $266 billion. Business has recognized the importance of software-as-a-service (SaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) applications in multiple clouds. It has also predicted that SaaS will continue to outsell IaaS, with SaaS forecast to grow to $116 billion in 2020. IaaS was forecast to reach $50 billion in 2020, at a CAGR of 24%, a result of data center consolidation. These forecasts were of course made prior to the COVID-19 emergency, but that does not mean that cloud will not continue its steep upwards curve.

But while it is growing, user experience can still be poor. Networks designed for a different time were simply not ready to handle the explosion of traffic that cloud adoption brought. Cloud traffic is growing 30% year-on-year, and that traffic causes management complexity, application performance unpredictability and data vulnerabilities. And with tens of millions of workers now working from home, more than ever, you need to deliver a high-level end-user experience.

What challenges exist?

Employees need to be able to do things online quickly to stay productive: they need fast access to documents and data, and they need to run business apps smoothly and reliably. Your IT and your network are no longer siloed, and business apps like unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) tools are now cloud-hosted, which creates more complexity and dependencies in the network.

Being able to track application performance requires the right data management platform: you need a robust data analytics platform assembled from multiple systems, but do you want a data-warehouse, data-lake or data-fabric approach? Security and privacy must be factored in, too, to address regulation like GDPR. Measuring the performance of your cloud apps helps you identify where you can make improvements, again impacting end-user experience.

How can you manage it?

You now need to support all forms of data, including applications, cloud, computing, storage, video, voice and other types of traffic. Visibility is key to performance, and with a single-pane-of-glass approach, via which you manage all your network data from all your sources using one central management console, you can have control over all your network resources. You can monitor your application performance from end to end, you get improved visibility of your data so you can analyze it and spot where any potential issues are and you can use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools to anticipate them. You have a command center for your whole IT environment.

Orange Visibility-as-a-Service, combined with AIOps-powered managed services, supports major rollouts like cloud migrations and helps you measure the impact on the end user before and after deployment. It also enables you to continuously optimize your infrastructure by detecting the impact of any small changes on end users. End-user-experience monitoring (EUEM) can give you full insights into application performance, and, more importantly, into the end-user experience based on that application performance.

Adjustability is also a benefit: when you use cloud, it gives you the big advantage of being able to scale it up quickly in instances when you might need more network resources. But there are other times when you might want to scale it down. For example, when your employees return to the office after working from home, you might want to scale down your network and IT capacity. So you will need the proper tooling to be able to adjust resources to your business needs as and when you want to.

Cloud is more essential than ever

In the COVID-19-enforced new normal, enterprises must ensure employees have a great end-user experience – and cloud will provide that. I expect enterprises of all sizes to ramp up their cloud usage significantly as a result of the COVID-19 crisis for a range of reasons: they will need extra capacity for current cloud-based applications to service increased demand as usage grows; a potentially reduced headcount or delays in hardware supply chains could also see some companies accelerating migration from the data center to the cloud. As we emerge from the pandemic, companies may also find that cloud simply offers a more reliable option for business continuity.

Furthermore, I also don’t expect enterprises to change their plans as much as some industry forecasters seem to think they will. In my own experience, we are seeing companies accelerate their digital transformation initiatives, and with it, their cloud transformation.

Orange gives customers managed services regardless of what IT is involved or what kind of network they need or where it is. We address the hyperconnected new reality where cloud-first – or indeed multicloud – has become the norm and is driving network requirements to new heights. Volume, bandwidth and cost reductions are all important, but flexibility, agility and scale are key, and end-user experience is imperative. Enterprises need a network that delivers what they need but that is as easily managed as possible and that delivers an enhanced user experience.

In Gartner’s latest Market Guide on Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM), they report that by 2023, 60% of digital business initiatives will require infrastructure and operations (I&O) to report on user digital experience, up 15% from today.

Cloud computing has enabled companies to continue operating as seamlessly as possible throughout the current, unprecedented crisis that could very conceivably have brought business processes and productivity to a standstill. It will continue to enable companies more than ever as we move forward.

Hervé Leroux
Harvey Leroux

Over the past 30 years, Harvey has held various European technical, sales and marketing management positions within technology companies. He participated in various start-ups before co-creating Neocles, a systems integrator pioneer in desktop virtualization. Following the acquisition of the company by Orange Business, Harvey now serves as Analyst Relations Director and Evangelist with Orange Cloud for Business.